Handrails and railings are key safety feature of a staircase. They help to prevent injuries and falls. You can make these staircase parts from different materials such as metal, wood, or glass to create different visual effects. The appearance of the staircase will be affected by the type and style of handrail and stair railing.

What’s the difference between handrail and railing?

Two stair parts often misunderstood are handrail and railing.

The handrail (also known as a banister) is the portion of the staircase that people use to support themselves when climbing up and down the stairs. The handrail should provide stability and a guideline along the stairs. You can make a handrail from a variety materials. You can attach it to a wall or extend it from the side rail of a stairway. Or, you can place it on top of the balusters, vertical posts, on the open side a staircase.

What material is best for stair handrails and railings?

The environment and desired look of the staircase will determine the best material for handrails or railings. For commercial or industrial settings, metals like aluminium, steel, and wrought iron are very popular. Wood, however, is more traditional and can be used in more modern environments. Glass is used where the view beyond the railings is important.


Steel is a very popular material for stair handrails, railings for industrial staircases, and for commercial egress stairs. Steel is the best choice for stair stringers. Galvanized and stainless steel are often used to prevent rusting. Galvanized steel is coated in zinc to protect it from corrosive substances. To prevent corrosion, stainless steel is coated with nickel, molybdenum, nickel and chrome.

Steel stair handrail applications

Handrails made of steel can be used in almost any environment. For prefabricated industrial stairs, a galvanized or powder coated steel handrail fittings in NZ is a good choice. Stainless steel handrails are a modern and sleek choice for commercial and residential spaces. To create a modern look, stainless steel handrails can be combined with railings made from other materials like glass.

Stair railings made of steel

Steel railings are also suitable for use in commercial, residential and industrial settings. Steel railings are more useful in industrial settings. Stainless steel railings are modern and sleek for homes and offices. You can combine them with many handrail materials such as wood to achieve the desired effect.

Advantages and disadvantages of steel stair handrails and rails:


  • Steel is extremely strong and durable, making it one the most safest materials for handrails or railings.
  • To improve steel’s performance, powder coatings can be applied to it.
  • Galvanized steel and stainless steel are very easy to maintain and can be easily cleaned with mild detergent and a sponge.
  • Steel can be used outdoors or inside because it is weather-resistant and versatile.


  • Steel can crack and become weaker in extreme heat.
  • Handrails and railings made of steel can be more costly than those made from other materials like wood.
  • Due to its heavy weight, steel can be difficult to use in DIY projects.
  • Steel can also be difficult to install because of its weight. Special equipment is required to make adjustments on the spot.


Aluminum, a naturally occurring element, has a lower density that other metals. This makes it lighter than steel. Aluminum is reflective and looks almost like silver. Aluminum is resistant to rust without any special treatment.

Aluminum stair handrail applications

You can find aluminum handrails in many settings. These handrails can be used inside or outside of homes, commercial buildings, and industrial settings.

Aluminum stair railings

Aluminum stair railings can be used outdoors for steps and decks. They can be used indoors in any building.

Advantages and disadvantages of aluminum stair railing handrails:


  • Aluminum, like steel, is strong and can be used to create an environment that is safe.
  • Aluminum is resistant to the most severe weather conditions and requires little maintenance.
  • Aluminum is lighter than steel so it’s easy to install.
  • Aluminum is lighter than steel and therefore easier to cut and shape. Aluminum is also available in many different designs and patterns.
  • Powder coating aluminum handrails and railings is possible to offer a variety of colors.


  • Aluminum is more expensive than steel for handrails and railings.
  • Aluminum handrails or railings are also more susceptible to scratching than steel.


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